RESERVE, LA (WVUE) - The Port of South Louisiana is in the midst of its biggest business boom in 60-years, according to Paul Aucoin, the port's executive director.
National and international energy companies are vying for waterfront real estate along the Mississippi in the River Parishes because of the region's cheap natural gas, said Aucoin.
Some of the largest companies in the nation operate along the 54 mile stretch of the Mississippi in St. Charles, St. John and St. James parishes.
"Right now, Marathon is the third largest refinery in the United States, and I'm pretty sure after this next expansion they're going to be one of the biggest in the United States," said Aucoin. "They're one of four that we have within the port district."
The American Association of Port Authorities recognizes the Port of South Louisiana as the number one energy transfer port in the country. Aucoin said it's about to get much busier.
"We just have an unbelievable number of prospects visiting us on a weekly basis. It's almost about two every week now," said Aucoin.
They're big companies with the potential to hire many technical and local positions that are vying for real estate.
"Right now I'm told that it's estimated that we have $80 billion worth of prospects looking at locating within the three river parishes," said Aucoin.
Most of them are companies hoping to take advantage the region's cheap and plentiful natural gas.
"This is one of our available sites," said Aucoin, pointing to a stretch of land called Willow Bend. "We have many available sites that are still left, but they're going fast."
Aucoin said ideal sites for natural gas companies are those with around 600 feet of waterfront space, and enough acreage to build facilities that will liquefy the natural gas for export through pipelines or on climate controlled ships.
"Within the past year, people started putting two and two together and saying this is where we need to be for a successful operation," said Aucoin.
There are already Liquid Natural Gas, or LNG, facilities in the state. Many are in the Lake Charles area, but Aucoin said these new prospects would be the first to send LNG tankers down the Mississippi River.
"One day you'll see them passing through New Orleans. I mean, they're supposed to be very safe," said Aucoin.
Based on how quickly businesses are trying to purchase land, Aucoin expects many to start the permit process and start breaking ground within the next couple of years.
Aucoin said about 25 percent of the companies vying for real estate are from foreign countries, such as Turkey.
The Port of South Louisiana is the largest tonnage port district in the United States.